On Tuesday, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told reporters that “it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants,” the Associated Press reported.
The CEO of BioNTech, the German pharmaceutical company that partnered with Pfizer to develop the first COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use, is confident their shot can deal with the new strain of the coronavirus identified in the UK.
Sahin said they’re currently conducting experiments to confirm this, and should get results in the next two weeks.
He added the “likelihood” their vaccine will work on the UK variant was “relatively high,” according to the AP, because the proteins on the new strain, which are what the vaccine targets , are 99% similar to the other strains.
On Sunday, parts of the UK went into stricter lockdown after learning the new strain could be up to 70% more transmissible, Business Insider’s Joshua Zitser reported. Since then, several countries including Denmark, Ireland, Belgium, and Israel have restricted incoming travel from the UK.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, said on Monday that he thought the new variant ” is already in the US ,” so a travel ban against the UK wouldn’t be effective. Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed the new strain was probably already in the US.
The emergence of the new strain underlines what experts have been saying for months – we’ll probably have to get yearly COVID-19 vaccines just like we get different flu shots every year to combat new strains as they emerge.
As Business Insider’s Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reported, medical experts have said the coronavirus vaccines will likely work against the new variants.
“We don’t have any particular reason to think that immunizing with the present vaccines is going to be less effective against the different variants that are circulating,” one professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol said on Monday.
However, the first vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being distributed across the US following the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorizations this month.